Preserving Moments, Part II (30 Days of Gratitude: Day 8)

On Day 6 of the 30 Days of Gratitude, I recalled fond vacation memories and spending time with family on St. John, USVI … years before the devastation of the Hurricane Irma ripped so much of the island to shreds two months ago. Before we even had time to fully comprehend the damage done by Irma, Hurricane Maria barreled through.

This time, Puerto Rico took the brunt of the storm’s wrath.  The post-hurricane images showed a land barren of green foliage, wiped clean by the powerful storm. Turning to the digital archives from 2014, I gratefully recalled the moments preserved by the camera as we explored that often-underappreciated isle.

The headlines are full these days, and we cannot forget about the people and places that need our help to restore even the most basic of services. News articles from the last day or two reveal the long road of recovery that Puerto Rico has ahead of it:

The animals of Puerto Rico are struggling, as well, with updates posted regularly on the Facebook pages of Save a Gato and Island Dog, two of the hard-working organizations collaborating with others to find displaced and stray companion animals loving homes, and caring for those left behind.

Many opportunities are available if you are interested and able to donate to relief and recovery efforts. There are many doing good work, but if you need a few ideas, we chose to direct our donations to these organizations:

Thoughts and prayers are great, but Puerto Rico, the USVI, and so many other regions which took the brunt of these monumental storms need action and money to help get them back on their feet again. Do what you can, even if it is only to spread the word to others about doing the same.

~ Kat

Weekly Photo Challenge: Frame

The brilliant blue waters contrast with the battered window housing one of the many cannons of Castillo San Felipe del Morro (El Morro) in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico cannon frame TGE 20140619 1

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge. “Frame” is this week’s theme. Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here: Frame.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Warmth

The cats of Old San Juan invoke warm feelings — gratitude toward their caretakers and the amazing Save a Gato organization, and delight with the welcoming love of these felines.  Warmth is not only a reference to temperature, but as defined by Merriam Webster’s dictionary, also refers to “the quality or state of being kind or friendly.”  It is this latter reference that came to mind when responding to this week’s Photo Challenge.

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.  ”Warmth” was this week’s theme.  Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here.

Ciao! ~ Kat

Our Home Away From Home in Puerto Rico

Sometimes you are fortunate enough to find a spot while traveling that allows you to relax and makes you feel like you are at home — without the hassle of housework, of course.  Instead, you can kick back, grab a good book, enjoy the view from a lounge chair, and even have a favorite four-legged friend at your side, for an extra-personal touch — so was our experience at the Ceiba Country Inn.

We spent a week in Puerto Rico in June of this year — a family vacation with the destination selected by my oldest son (the motivating factor: somewhere he could use his five years of Spanish without breaking the vacation bank).  He had the privilege of selecting the destination because the trip was in lieu of a high school graduation party.  (I admit, I strongly encouraged him to take the trip rather than the party — didn’t we all win that way?!)  It was a great week of family time at a stage in our family’s life that makes me appreciate how rare family time can be, as the countdown has begun before our oldest goes to college in the fall.

Our week was divided between four nights in eastern Puerto Rico, at the Ceiba Country Inn, and then two nights in Old San Juan.  If and when we return to Puerto Rico, as we certainly hope to do, the western side of the island has more sights to explore, but we would have to make time again for at least a night or two at this little Inn on top of the hill on the edge of the rainforest.

The days started with fresh fruits and freshly-squeezed juices from the property, along with Michael’s home-baked breads, yogurt and coffee.  One morning we had a special treat of fresh hard-boiled eggs from the resident chickens. The view from the patio deck stretches across the rolling hills of the rainforest to the sea.  Games and books were available for guests to borrow, with reasonably priced beer and wine available for purchase while the office was open in the evenings.

With only 9 rooms, the Inn has an intimate feel to it, yet is laid-back and friendly with its communal breakfast room and patio. While we fully appreciated the companionship of the canine and feline residents of the Inn, for those who were not as enamored, the owners and staff helped with minimizing interactions (as you can see from my photos, we welcomed their antics and friendly greetings as we came and went).  As the sun sets, the sounds of the forest come out:  the owls, the wind in the trees, and the little coquis.  Even if the night was warm, we left our windows open so we could fall asleep to the sounds of nature surrounding the Inn.

The Inn was a getaway in the countryside, just outside of the town of Ceiba, yet only a short 15-minute drive to Fajardo with many dining options, and just a few minutes farther to the Laguna Grande biobay kayak tours and some great beaches.  It was the best of both worlds.  Owner Michael was always gracious when answering questions about the property, area activities and dining suggestions. The Inn’s front office was often staffed by Chris, who also works as an area tour guide (our morning trip with him to Rio Tinajas will have to be the subject of a future post, along with some of our other favorite Puerto Rican experiences)!  For now, I leave you with a short video slideshow that gives you a small idea of why the Ceiba Country Inn is such a charming part of our travel memories.

Ciao! ~ Kat

Weekly Photo Challenge: Between

The line between comfort and despair …. good fortune and tragedy … is often much more tenuous that we care to acknowledge.

Gato in the doorway of Hotel El Convento

One of the gato of Puerto Rico sitting in the doorway of the classic Hotel El Convento, between a life of luxury and its life on the street, reminded us of this sometimes harsh juxtaposition during our stay in Old San Juan.

The Save A Gato organization has filled a critical need in Puerto Rico, with its spay-neuter-release and adoption programs, as well as supporting and inspiring both formal and informal volunteers to help care for the many gato on the streets of Old San Juan.  Support their efforts through a donation, and “like” their Facebook page, to share their important work with your friends.

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge. ”Between” was this week’s theme. Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here.